Will EBikeshare Replace EBike Ownership For Most People in Cities?

Will city dwellers do more riding on personally owned or shared ebikes?

  • Personally owned ebikes

    Votes: 20 69.0%
  • Shared ebikes

    Votes: 9 31.0%

  • Total voters
    29

Asher

Well-Known Member
I follow urban transportation closely, and I think the future is bright, especially due to ebikes. The biggest problem with ebikes, IMO, is that you have to drop a couple grand for something that you're not even sure you'll use, when you probably already own a car.

ebikeshare fixes that, by providing an ebike that costs $2-3 per 30 minute ride, instead of demanding $2k. I keep hearing from people who never even considered ebikes, have a blast on an electric bikeshare.

Let's imagine you live in a city where a shared ebike is always within a 3 minute walk, for $2 per half hour. Would you still own an ebike? Why or why not?

Arguments for Bikeshare:

*Don't have to worry about theft, maintenance, storage.
*If life changes and you don't need an ebike as much, you haven't lost a bunch of money (even selling it will probably cost several hundred in depreciation)
*An ebike may not always be the ideal solution, so sharing lets you use ebikes only when it makes sense. e.g., you could ebike to the bar and take a cab or bus home. This is why people drive so much currently, because cars cost almost nothing to operate once you have one (marginal vs fixed costs).

Arguments for Owning:
*Your total lifecycle cost will be lower. (This could change; ebikeshare has the labor costs of recharging/rebalancing bikes.)
*You can customize your ebike as you like
*You can go faster, up to 28 vs 14-19 mph.
*You can always be assured of access to your ebike (provided it's not stolen).

I've never owned an ebike, but I just ordered one. Curious to hear what people who have actually owned ebikes think. I decided to buy one because I didn't want to wait for electric bikeshare in my hood, and because bikeshare will probably cost more. But, Seattle and San Diego are starting to see ebikeshare.

I'm guessing it comes down to daily routines - if you want to use ebikes daily, then owning is probably a good idea. If not, bikeshare is better. If you want to use ebikes and transit together, it's a tie, or you get a small foldable ebike. I'm also skeptical of the notion that ownership will win out simply because "people like owning stuff."
 

Barry S

Well-Known Member
Bikeshare Hawaii is a non-profit venture that launched here in Honolulu last June. It goes by the branding "Biki". These are non-ebikes with docking stations all over the Waikiki and Downtown area. It's been very successful for several reasons:
  • popular with tourists for short rides to in-town sites; not sure about locals
  • terrible traffic congestion so bike commuting is faster
  • no helmet law for adults
  • excellent partnership with the City to make numerous sites available for docking stations
  • no winter weather to slow business
These single-speed bikes require no instruction and any maintenance needed is low-tech. However, that would not be the case with ebikes. Even if you could come up with one that was idiot-proof to operate and easy to maintain, there's still the issue of keeping the bikes charged. Then there's the element of theft. I'm sure even a few of these ugly single speed pedal bikes get stolen, damaged or vandalized, but having this happen to an ebike is really going to hurt profitability.

Now, we do have 3 ebike shops that both sell and rent ebikes. Their rentals are catered to the tourists with half-day, full-day and weekly rates. I have no idea how well they do.
 
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Mr. Coffee

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
A Demented Corner of the North Cascades
There are a couple of things to occur to me.

This will break down quickly if the bikes aren't promptly recharged. Compared to a regular bikeshare you effectively will have less availability because you need downtime to charge the bikes. Most models and most chargers do not charge rapidly -- even the best ones can take a couple of hours to charge the battery. From my standpoint I'd give up on an ebikeshare system the first time I grabbed a bike with a dead battery.

Another thing that I think of is that ebikes aren't as easy to use as a dead simple single speed with coaster brake bike. And even if you own a Rad Rover you might need a few minutes to figure out a Sondors or a Pedego. And if you've never used an ebike before that little lcd and all of those buttons might be intimidating.

Going back to charging. You are going to need some fancy charging infrastructure, and it will be something of a technical challenge to avoid being locked into one brand and/or platform.
 

Asher

Well-Known Member
Thomas is right. These shared ebikes are pretty simple. Complication isn't essential. It may be welcome for owners, since they have ample time to learn about the bike, and have more granular control, but it's not necessary or even helpful for a quick jaunt to a newcomer.

A rave review from someone who had never ridden an ebike.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/ggwash.org/view/amp/64910

As for charging, for now companies manually swap out batteries on bikes with low batteries. But I doubt the average ride is more than 5 miles, enabling several rides at $2+ before recharging is needed.

In the future, these firms will contract with properties for charging/storage (Limebike is now funded by real estate firms that want to park the bikes on their property). Or they could use streetside charging stations.

http://www.ebikeschool.com/first-time-spotting-electric-bicycle-charging-station/

Though Europe caps ebikes at 15mph so their's are slower.

PCDoctor, the firm JUMP has prevented theft with u locks that are built into the bike, that users must lock onto a street fixture at the end of each ride. Plus all share bikes now have GPS on-board, and presumably the electric motor is unusable if stolen.
 
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J.R.

Well-Known Member
Just wanting to own stuff is changing with the younger generation. Many that don't need a car, don't want a car and therefore won't buy a car. That's probably smart! I know I wanted a car long before I needed a car.

As for ebikes, you're leaving a few segments of buyers out of the equation. The wannabe rider that wants an ebike for more than just transportation. The buyer that will use the bike for transportation, but also wants to stay or get in shape. That's more difficult when you get a different bike everytime out. And the recrational rider that wants to throw the bike on/in the car, get out of the city for the weekend and ride 'the famous rail trail' everyone's talking about. Then there's the city dweller that wants to get out and mountain bike. That can include the growing number of ebike competition mtb events.

I don't live in a city, so I'm not in their target market, but I've used my ebikes for 3-1/2 years for transport, recreation and fitness. They are just so much fun and useful.

I hope ebikeshares will become commonplace in most cities, I'd likely visit for pleasure more often. I think it will be awhile before they're commonplace though. For the 4 years this forum has existed, many of us thought ebikes were ready to really take off in North America. They are, sort of. It's a slow growth though and the market here is tiny. It's going to take investment by the brands for mainstream advertising and education. Local and state governments will need to get on board with public information campaigns. European style schemes to promote ebikes and possibly offer tax credits for using ebikes, instead of a car. If one buys an electric car, they get a huge tax write-off and they never pay highway gasoline tax, the money that pays for our roadway infrastructure.

I fear a lot will have to change before ebikes take off like they have in Europe. Europe developed a bicycle culture, seriously since WWII. A lot due to necessity, a great deal of Europe was destroyed and few had money for cars, that's if you could get one. If you needed to get from A to B, you rode a bike. North America, and in particular the US, there was plenty of money and plenty of jobs to go around. Riding a bike was what poor people and children did. At best it was a toy! We didn't build any cycling infrastructure. Most people still don't consider a bicycle a serious transportation alternative. And far fewer children dream of a bike under the Christmas Tree. They want an iPhone, iPad or PlayStation. The market to sell any bike is small in N.A., smaller for ebikes, smaller for ebikeshares.

I'm hopeful, but pragmatic at this point. The nearest "city" to me, a city of 65,000 residents installed a regular bikeshare last summer, but they only have it available during warmer months. Even the bikeshare company is treating it as a novelty for tourists.

:confused:

In the meantime I'm all in! The more the merrier, the more the cheaper! I do my best to inform anyone that'll listen. Last fall I was riding with a buddy and his Haibike, I on my BH and there was a guy in town that was very interested in our bikes. After giving him the full tour, he left us saying: "so it's a fancy moped?". Oh well.
 

Asher

Well-Known Member
Agreed it's not a good match for recreational MTB. For working out though, these companies cover a given city with one model, usually one to three companies per city. So it's not too hard to get the hang of it. Plus you can switch between pedal and ebikes as you like.

I think the slow expansion of ebikes comes down to the chicken or egg problem I mentioned at the beginning, that sharing quickly solves. That's also why Uber took off so quickly, because the cost of entry was just a $10 ride.

I think most people under 50 don't care about ownership OR sharing. They just want whatever's more convenient and affordable, and with a costly vehicle that's mostly idle, sharing is often the answer.
 

Barry S

Well-Known Member
@J.R. made some excellent points about the younger generation and how the US views bikes as transportation. Until the US begins making infrastructure changes that incorporate a bicycle culture, any type of bikeshare program is going to have a hard time gaining serious traction. Not to say it can't be done, we just love our cars too much. Local, city and state governments also need to stop treating ebikes like motorcycles and let us use the bike lanes and pathways. Nothing worse than shelling out thousands of dollars for an ebike only to have some elected moron decide you're a menace and bans your mode of transportation.

As for the younger generation having little interest in ownership, there's a reason that major auto manufacturers are investing in Uber and Lyft. Why have the expense of vehicle ownership when you can summon a car from your smartphone. The younger generation love the convenience, so buying a car is moved way down their bucket list if not altogether removed. An ebike could take the car's place on the list or be passed over as well. For these kids, experiences captured in photos are the new material possessions.
 

Scott C

New Member
I follow urban transportation closely, and I think the future is bright, especially due to ebikes. The biggest problem with ebikes, IMO, is that you have to drop a couple grand for something that you're not even sure you'll use, when you probably already own a car.

ebikeshare fixes that, by providing an ebike that costs $2-3 per 30 minute ride, instead of demanding $2k. I keep hearing from people who never even considered ebikes, have a blast on an electric bikeshare.

Let's ...- if you want to use ebikes daily, then owning is probably a good idea. If not, bikeshare is better. If you want to use ebikes and transit together, it's a tie, or you get a small foldable ebike. I'm also skeptical of the notion that ownership will win out simply because "people like owning stuff."


Hey mate. Interesting but no I don’t think rent an ebike will go off. Folk who don’t wish to just blob-out in a container of some sort and be transported, that is, people who might get on an ebike, for instance, me ...well I just don’t think I.d rent some not great, hopefully maintained, shared and subtely wrecked thing - each day! ..or often? no ...which leaves, then it seems, people not so fussed about the public shared mostly maintained ebike and would gladly rent it if the idea struck but who are in fact going to blob-out in a moving container. Alright maybe mass transit ebikes will work where most have a modicum of fitness and a utilitarian sensibility. :)
 
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Asher

Well-Known Member
"There's been an explosion of American dockless, electric bike-sharing systems, which started in Europe and Asia and have now reached American shores. Eight-year-old Jump is live in San Francisco and Washington, DC. Limebike has zippy electrified bikes in Seattle, parts of the Bay Area, and soon, San Diego. Spin, less than one year old, offers e-bikes in Miami and on two university campuses."

You're a bit behind the times, Scott :). Also find your British patois hard to parse.

https://www.wired.com/story/shared-electric-bikes-take-on-everyone/
 

Barry S

Well-Known Member
Europe and Asia are way ahead of us when it comes to the acceptance of bikes as a mode of transportation and adapting their infrastructure to support it, which explains why an ebike share there works well. Even their bike parking garages and automated underground parking options amaze me. We're still chaining ours to a street post and hoping it's still there when we get back, which is why I only bike to and from work (bike kept indoors at both locations) with no stops in-between even just to "run in" for a loaf of bread or something. The fear of theft of my own bike would encourage me to participate in an ebike share program when I'm already at work and want to run errands during my lunch break.
 

Asher

Well-Known Member
Europe and Asia are way ahead of us when it comes to the acceptance of bikes as a mode of transportation and adapting their infrastructure to support it, which explains why an ebike share there works well. Even their bike parking garages and automated underground parking options amaze me. We're still chaining ours to a street post and hoping it's still there when we get back, which is why I only bike to and from work (bike kept indoors at both locations) with no stops in-between even just to "run in" for a loaf of bread or something. The fear of theft of my own bike would encourage me to participate in an ebike share program when I'm already at work and want to run errands during my lunch break.

Agree that infrastructure is sorely lacking here, though I think the availability through sharing will rapidly increase adoption, increasing demand for better infrastructure. Plus, private property owners will do their part - https://medium.com/fifth-wall-insig...-us-real-estate-owners-operators-584e8ef33356

As for theft, I have a renter's policy through Lemonade that covers bike theft even when not at home. The policy doesn't cost extra for bikes under $1,000, and is $5-10 a month based on your circumstances. For bikes over $1k, it's something like $2 per month extra. You should definitely check it out. On my road bike, I also use hexlox to secure the wheels, saddle, stem.
 

Barry S

Well-Known Member
I'll have to check out Lemonade. I knew about Velosurance, but have yet to check their rates. Property crime in Hawaii is very high to the outrageous cost of living and homelessness. My former co-worker had his Specialized bike stolen from the front of the retail store we worked at. It was chained and in plain view of customers going in and out. Bold...or just a lot of meth.
 

MisterM

Active Member
I'll have to check out Lemonade. I knew about Velosurance, but have yet to check their rates. Property crime in Hawaii is very high to the outrageous cost of living and homelessness. My former co-worker had his Specialized bike stolen from the front of the retail store we worked at. It was chained and in plain view of customers going in and out. Bold...or just a lot of meth.
Casey Neistat did a vid in NYC using bolt cutters in front of busy places (including a police station) to "steal" his own bike. Nobody paid any attention. Only when he did it in front of a couple of cops near busy subway entrance did anyone stop him - cop said it was the only time they'd ever "caught" someone. Most locks take 30sec or less to cut anyway (cables only a few seconds).
 

Bicyclista

Active Member
Bike sharing suffers from what economists call "the tragedy of the commons," i.e. an issue similar to overgrazing on common land. I was in Seattle visiting my daughter. She and her husband are avid cyclists (non-electric). In trying to find and rent a bike so I could go bike riding with them, we literally had to search all over the neighborhood for a properly functioning bike. Most of them had something wrong with them, usually broken spokes from people forcing the wheel through the lock. Many of the "available" bikes were in fact not available because people kept them inside their homes even when not paying to ride them. The sixth or seventh bike we found was rideable, just barely. The quality of the ride was poor, to be charitable.

Another issue is one-size fits all. There is more to raising or lowering the seatpost to properly size a bike to a particular body. There is also reach. Some people have longer torsos and longer arms than others. A bike should be tailored to your body, just like your clothes.

I would say bikesharing, electric or conventional, is for the casual, less discriminating rider. Personally, I'm keeping my Haibike and I may own several electric bikes down the line. Bikesharing electric Lime bikes now proliferating all over San Diego, where I live, do not tempt me at all.
 

Asher

Well-Known Member
Bike sharing suffers from what economists call "the tragedy of the commons," i.e. an issue similar to overgrazing on common land. I was in Seattle visiting my daughter. She and her husband are avid cyclists (non-electric). In trying to find and rent a bike so I could go bike riding with them, we literally had to search all over the neighborhood for a properly functioning bike. Most of them had something wrong with them, usually broken spokes from people forcing the wheel through the lock. Many of the "available" bikes were in fact not available because people kept them inside their homes even when not paying to ride them. The sixth or seventh bike we found was rideable, just barely. The quality of the ride was poor, to be charitable.

Another issue is one-size fits all. There is more to raising or lowering the seatpost to properly size a bike to a particular body. There is also reach. Some people have longer torsos and longer arms than others. A bike should be tailored to your body, just like your clothes.

I would say bikesharing, electric or conventional, is for the casual, less discriminating rider. Personally, I'm keeping my Haibike and I may own several electric bikes down the line. Bikesharing electric Lime bikes now proliferating all over San Diego, where I live, do not tempt me at all.


Thanks for the insight, I've mostly read about it from afar (though I did try Limebike and Spin at a transportation conference).

Regarding fit, it's not essential. There have been successful bikeshares that offer a one size fits most solution, with upright city bikes. These are pretty much what most bikeshares offer. However, I could see with competitive bikeshare, where multiple firms operate in a given city, the sizes might vary a bit, e.g. one firm targeting slightly taller people.

Jump Bikes may have solved the broken spokes/lock issue you mentioned, by having a u lock that attaches to the frame when the bike is in use, and then used as a lock when stationary. Jump is not currently active in Seattle or SD. Jump's bikes have also earned rave reviews.
(Link Removed - No Longer Exists)
(Link Removed - No Longer Exists).

In general, I think it's going to be similar to pedal bikes - there are times and places where you'll want your own bike (long-ish daily commutes, esp. so you can go above 20 mph), and places where you don't. Theft is a big factor. I do think ebikeshare will be a boon to ebike sellers, as people realize the promise of electric bikes. San Diego will be a great test case, especially as it's home to the brand I just ordered from, Juiced.
 

Nova Haibike

Well-Known Member
Many of the "available" bikes were in fact not available because people kept them inside their homes even when not paying to ride them.

Hmm. That has to be illegal in some way, or if it is not, the bike sharing company needs to find a way to make those folks pay for "keeping" their bikes.